Some high school juniors-to-be honed their football skills at a Gophers camp.
High school juniors-to-be attended the University of Minnesota's Elite Junior football camp at TCF Bank Stadium on Sunday. Gophers coach Jerry Kill urged the players to focus on details. Photos by Courtney Perry, Special to the Star Tribune
It’s all about the details.
That was the motto recited over and over by University of Minnesota coaches as they ran players through warm-ups Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium for Gophers coach Jerry Kill’s Junior Elite football camp. Each drill, each repetition, the coaches wanted the 170 or so juniors-to-be to focus on the little things that can make them effective.
And the coaches — stopwatches and clipboards in hand — were watching closely, recording every 40 time, every bench press rep that can add a tangible number to the imperfect process of recruiting.
Players hope these details get them noticed and help them get that much closer to their goals of playing at the next level. Here is a look at three of the metro’s top incoming juniors who already are turning coaches’ heads:
Will Rains, junior, RB, Eastview
Football future: Undecided. He’s a big, fast and physical runner, and his goal is to play Division I football.
Quotable: “It’s the only way you’re going to get to where you want to be — the team being successful. You can’t just have one good player and hope to accomplish your goals.”
It’s a change of mind-set more than anything. Everything, from his style of play to his expectations to his demeanor, needs to change, Rains said.
“It’s a big difference being a sophomore to being a junior,” said Rains, a 5-11, 220-pounder. “You expect a little more out of yourself.”
And coming into Sunday’s camp at TCF Bank Stadium, Rains was hoping to show everyone in attendance exactly what to expect out of him this coming fall.
Rains always has been a physical runner. It’s one of the reasons he was called up from the freshman team to play fullback during Eastview’s 2011 playoff run, and it’s what helped quickly establish himself as one of the most promising runners in the South Suburban Conference a year ago. As a sophomore in 2012, he led the Lightning in rushing, helping the team to advance to the state tournament.
“I was always kind of focused on between the tackles and just bounc- ing off people,” Rains said. “This year, I’m hoping to add a little more to my running style.”
Having wrestled and run track during his freshman season, Rains spent his offseason this year focusing on only football, adding muscle and improving his speed. He said that now, on a good day, his 40-yard dash time is down in the 4.5-second range. He hopes to bring that improved speed to the field this fall.
“Last year, I didn’t know what to expect, and was just hoping for playing time,” he said. “This year, I really want to step up and be one of the people to help lead my team.”
Jack Burns, junior, LB, Minnetonka
Football future: Undecided. A three-sport athlete, Burns is leaning toward football as his sport of choice in college.